Unlike the cuisine of Southern Italy, Milan and the greater Lombardy area tend to utilize strong earthy flavors rather than the famous ingredients of tomatoes and olive oil. Creamy sauces and textures combined with savory meats and grains make for a rich culinary experience.
My first taste of Milan was in the autumn, meaning all those hearty grains, pastas, meats, and cheeses were paired with vivid harvest fruits like grapes and pumpkins.
After scanning around the Internet, I decided to pay a visit to Ratana, a classical Italian restaurant in Porta Nuova with some eclectic twists. Ratana lives in a castle-like building in a park that suits crisp, warm fall weather perfectly.
Figs with cheese sounded like a simple enough starter.
The figs were roasted so deeply that they had the consistency of cooked cherry tomatoes. They were fragrant and sweet with a rich tart aftertaste. The ricotta was smooth refreshing, and sweet—I could already tell that Italian-made cheeses are on a different level than what I’ve had before. The most exciting, revolutionary part of the dish were two spun “meringues” of parmesan cheese and pepper that fizz away in the mouth.
For my main course, I opted for the Risotto Milanese with Veal Osso Bucco, not realizing that this decadent, classic dish is actually meant to be eaten as a single course. The risotto was vividly orange with multiple threads of risotto flowering within it. In particular, I was extremely impressed by the size of the knee. In America, you’re lucky if you get two or three miniature morsels. Here, I was served the whole appendage. The kneecap overflowed velvety bone marrow that made the buttery risotto even more luscious. I greedily managed to scarf the whole thing down after being on a plane for seven hours.
Dessert was a large, juicy fox grape (a distant relative of the Concord but muskier) served with cream and pastries. The course was sweet with a faint woodsy, almost smoky aftertaste that tempered the dish.
I found out later that the risotto and veal were actually meant to be a solo course. It’s such a commanding dish that you’re supposed to skip an appetizer or dessert when you order it. Oh well.
Ratana made for a splendid first taste of Milan!
Address: Via Gaetano de Castillia, 28, 20124 Milano MI, Italy